Smart Integration

Digital media support the integration of refugees

With the app-based peer group counseling Smart Integration, the University of Ulm in cooperation with the Jobcenter Rhein-Neckar-Kreis developed a new, innovative tool that supports refugees in their integration. The project was funded by the Péter Horváth Foundation. The goal was to evaluate the success and feasibility of app-based peer group counseling as a counseling service for refugees in a nine-month pilot project.

Smart Integration is based on the principle of peer groups. Peer groups form when people with the same interests, challenges, or goals join together. Members of peer groups can benefit from each other's experiences, develop a common motivation, or experience support that is difficult to find otherwise. Peer groups are realized digitally in Smart Integration on the one hand. People can network with each other regardless of location, maintain their anonymity, and have access to the support of their peers at any time. Especially in the context of refugees, this offers the possibility to join a conversation without time pressure. On the other hand, the peer groups are realized on site and in person at the Integration Point Heidelberg (belonging to the Jobcenter Rhein-Neckar-Kreis). People thus have direct access to each other, communicate using facial expressions and gestures, and build up a trusting relationship with each other.

Cooperation partners: Jobcenter Rhein-Neckar-Kreis, Integration Point Heidelberg

Sponsor: Péter Horváth Foundation

Project period: September 2018 - July 2019


The lighthouse project yielded a new, innovative approach that supports the integration of refugees in Germany, as well as recommendations for how to implement it. The results of the pilot project show that Smart Integration can significantly support the integration process. Specifically, it was possible to measure more positive developments in terms of contact with Germans and with people from the home country, in terms of perceived discrimination and general satisfaction as well as in terms of connectedness with Germany compared to connectedness with their home country. The digital peer groups showed different positive effects compared to the on-site and in-person ones, suggesting that it would be beneficial to combine the two formats.